May 2013: Newsletter

We’re now in the midst of discussing the staffing portion of the budget for 2013/14, the first and biggest part of the overall budgeting process. Spending on staffing represents approximately 85% of the roughly $400m allocated to the board by the province; a not uncommon percentage for a service-based organization. By the time the budget goes to a vote on May 8 the governing board will have spent three sessions studying senior staff’s recommendations and providing feedback. Following that we will focus on the budgeting of non-staffing items. Although needing to accommodate the routine, annual upward cost pressures associated with achieving even a status quo version of last year’s budget we are at least not faced with the cutbacks to the general fund that defined each of the last three years.

Also on the topic of staffing, this is the time of year when we hear about new placements within our schools. A visit to the full listing of job postings and successful applicants, teaching and non-teaching, will give you an idea of what may be changing in your own school. Use the pull down menus to tailor your search. Here are a just few of the changes:
– David LeBlanc will be the new Principal at Gorsebrook Junior High replacing Agnes Greer
– Dunovan Kalberlah will become one of the three VPs at Citadel High replacing Robert Macmillan
– Robert MacMillan will become the new Principal at Halifax Central Junior High replacing Bill Spears
– Patricia Tupper of Joseph Howe Elementary will become Principal at Westmount Elementary replacing Susan Latham
– Gordon McKelvie of St. Agnes Junior High will become Principal of J.L. Ilsley High; his successor has yet to be chosen.

The independent review of board services, systems, and supports that was arranged following the death of Rehtaeh Parsons will result in an interim report expected May 10 and a final report on June 14. Any policy improvements recommended by the report will be implemented as soon as possible after that.

The annually updated capital projects list for construction-related spending has now been approved by the governing board and submitted to the province for consideration. As requested it names ten projects. This year’s list is valued at approximately $89m. Last year it was $172m of which $52m was approved. This year the list features two projects for District 4: a replacement school for LeMarchant-St.Thomas Elementary; and, additions and alterations for Inglis Street Elementary.  Both have been requested in the past. The province receives these lists from every board in the province each April and announces which projects it will fund toward the end of the calendar year. Much of the change in the dollar value of HRSB’s list is accounted for in a shift in emphasis from new construction to alternations and additions.

The search for a new superintendent is being led by search firm Royer Thompson. Key stakeholders including governing board, senior staff, and those who work most closely with the superintendent have been interviewed about the qualities they see as being central to successfully filling the role. By now all SAC chairs will have received their invitation to attend one of the four sessions taking place around HRM from May 9 to 15 at which they can provide their input. The governing board will continue to oversee the search process and make the final selection.

The discussion around grade reconfiguration, whether to include grade nine in high school, will continue once staff has revised and resubmitted its report to the governing board. My own view on the issue is derived from having seen child after child, my own and others, get to January of their grade nine year and lose interest in both the programme and the setting. This is apparently the point at which a good number of students lose interest. It seemed to me that developmentally, socially, and academically the children I was seeing would have benefitted from the expanded world of possibilities that high school offered. Whether of the opinion that grade nine is best kept within junior high or added to high school there is a seemingly infinite amount of data to support either view. I invite your feedback on this topic.

Each district in the board has its own unique interests as well as those we share. The following are the topics that have been brought to my attention by constituents of District 4, the means by which your concerns get registered and considered at the governing board level.

– lunchtime supervision programme
– grade reconfiguration
– class sizes in Grades 4 to 6
– offsite chaperoning of school teams and clubs

In the time since the last newsletter the governing board has approved the 2013-2017 strategic plan. It will be reviewed annually. Without going into all of the details here’s a summary of the highlights:

Mission: Providing a high quality education for every student every day.
Vision: Providing a safe and engaging learning environment where every student learns, grows, and succeeds.Goals:
To improve student achievement and personal success
To maximize exemplary teaching practices to support high quality instruction
To achieve equitable learning opportunities for all students
To build engagement, support and confidence in HRSB
The HRSB Facilities Master plan is now more than two years old and still in draft form but if you’re curious about what exists in the way of a comprehensive view of all facilities in the system you’ll find it here.

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